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James Balda
Argentum President & CEO

2021

September 9

Statement following the Biden administration’s announcement of a six-prong strategy to fight COVID-19

“We continue to be discouraged that the Biden administration is neglecting America’s senior living communities. For senior living communities, today’s plan is not a path out of the pandemic, but a path toward bankruptcy.

“These communities have been leading the way to protect seniors, following federal guidelines, regulations, and mandates on a host of issues ranging from vaccines to distancing to PPEs. Senior living communities have suffered $30 billion in pandemic-related expenses and losses, yet to date have received less than 1 percent of all federal provider relief funding. This cannot continue any longer. It has now been 531 days since provider relief was signed into law, and the Biden administration is still sitting on $27 billion of this critical funding.

“Senior living communities need access to this federal assistance now, or many will not make it through this pandemic.”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


August 1

Statement following the release of the legislative text of the bipartisan infrastructure deal

“We are extremely pleased that this funding—a critical lifeline—won’t be taken away from seniors and caregivers to pay for infrastructure. As costs continue to mount for senior living providers and as COVID-19 variant cases continue to spread, the need for this relief remains at an all-time high. We are particularly grateful to the many Senate champions who fought to protect the Provider Relief Fund, especially Senators Sinema, Collins, Shaheen, and Murkowski, who championed this fight for seniors and caregivers. They have long recognized our concerns and have led the efforts for Provider Relief Fund equity for assisted living providers.

“As this legislation moves through the legislative process, we fervently hope that it remains protected so it can be quickly released to the assisted living caregivers to whom it was promised. The relief is critical for these caregivers who are on the frontlines, working to protect and provide essential care and services to seniors. The immediate and equitable release of these funds is imperative before more communities close, seniors lose their homes, and caregivers lose their livelihoods.”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


April 28

Statement following President Biden’s address to Congress and the nation

“We appreciate the inclusion of support for the nation’s caregivers in the American Jobs Plan. But support for home care for the nation’s seniors is just part of the solution; support for the broader long-term care sector, which is critically important, is largely absent from the plan. Senior living providers were among the hardest hit by COVID-19 as caregivers worked tirelessly each day to protect vulnerable seniors, yet they’ve received little federal financial relief to date. Part of building back our economy is dependent on the ability for these senior living caregivers to receive the resources necessary to continue caring for the nation’s older adults. Similarly, while the American Families Plan addresses the need for child care support, it unfortunately loses sight of the critical need to pay for the care of aging loved ones who need long-term services and supports.

“As the nation’s aging population grows, it’s vital that we continue to invest in long-term care, as it stands to be one of the most critical domestic policy issues in the coming decade. Investments are needed in a number of areas from additional resources for infection control and prevention; expanded technology and telehealth capacities; and funding for workforce opportunities and training, among others. Without investing in the long-term care sector, who will care for the country’s growing population of seniors?

“At Argentum, we’ll continue working with our members and advocates to advance priorities on Capitol Hill that reinforce the need to invest in care for seniors and support for caregivers. They can’t be left behind in any plans that focus on restoring and supporting our economy. Argentum is calling on Congress and the administration to invest in a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of our rapidly growing population. Argentum supports the SENIOR Act, which would ensure that our nation has the foundational elements needed to care for its aging population.”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


February 25

Statement in response to the removal of reference to long-term care in American Rescue Plan

“It is unconscionable to see all references to long-term care stripped from the American Rescue Plan. Assisted living communities have been on the front lines of the pandemic, serving the population most vulnerable to COVID-19 for a full year with little to no federal relief or resources. Dedicated senior living staff care for millions of seniors who need help with activities of daily living, have chronic conditions, and who, according to the CDC, are up to 630 times more likely to die from COVID-19. Assisted living communities have been promised less than 2% of funding from the Provider Relief Fund, and have received only half of that to date. More than half of providers are operating at a loss, unsure if they can continue operations through the year. If communities close, workers will lose jobs, seniors will lose homes, and the financial burden on Medicare and Medicaid will skyrocket. With exorbitant costs and declining revenue due to COVID-19, they’re being left behind as other businesses at far less risk stand to receive billions in relief in the American Rescue Plan. Enough is enough. The federal government is abandoning and failing seniors and their caregivers in their greatest time of need. We need to see action from our legislators now—before it’s too late. ”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


January 14

Statement in response to Biden American Rescue Plan 

“At Argentum, we look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his administration in continuing to address the tremendous impact that COVID-19 has had on the senior living industry, in particular. We agree wholeheartedly with the statement that the bipartisan action in December was just a “down payment” on tackling the ongoing problems associated with the pandemic. The senior living-related provisions offered in the most recent legislative package were woefully inadequate. Seniors and their caregivers need more support and relief—and it is needed now.

“Following today’s announcement on the American Rescue Plan, we are pleased to see emphasis on improving the country’s vaccination plan, investing in better testing, and in protecting the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Now, 10 months in the pandemic, the senior living industry is still grappling with rising costs and declining occupancy due to COVID-19, so it is essential that the American Rescue Plan includes additional funding for these providers to support ongoing operations. This will ensure vulnerable seniors can continue living in their homes and it will support the dedicated senior living workforce all across the industry caring for them.

“Additionally, as vaccinations continue to be administered across the country, it is imperative that those in senior congregate care settings continue to be prioritized. This includes both seniors—regardless of care level—and those caring for them, in order to maximize vaccine effectiveness. We believe states should be taking cues from the CDC’s recommended prioritization plan and have expressed concern over the broader vaccine approach recently recommended by the Trump administration. This approach may leave seniors and their caregivers behind.

“It is also essential that testing continues to improve and that tests are provided regularly to senior living communities. Rapid, efficient, effective, and reliable testing is critical to identifying possible cases of COVID-19 so communities can move quickly to isolate any possible future cases and reduce the likelihood of outbreak.

“It also cannot be overstated how important all of these measures will be in helping to combat the growing crisis of loneliness among seniors caused by COVID-19. From the beginning of the pandemic, it’s been clear that older adults are most at risk from the harmful effects of COVID-19. Protecting them and the staff who serve them needs to remain a legislative priority.”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


2020

December 21

Statement in response to the passage of the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package

“We are disappointed in the provisions put forth in this latest package—they fall short in addressing the needs of seniors residing in long-term care settings across the country and lack the promise of the financial resources needed to care for them.

“We, along with our members and industry advocates, have fought long and hard for critical financial support for the industry as a result of this pandemic. And while we appreciate the inclusion of additional funding for expanded COVID-19 testing and tracing for long-term care in this latest package, the funding allocated for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) falls woefully short of what the industry needs and what prior drafts of the legislation had suggested. It also leaves a large sum of the PRF unassigned.

“We continue to stay focused on ensuring that HHS distributes PRF payments and sharing the urgency with which that action is needed to stave off community closures—nearly 40% have indicated they may need to close communities should their financial situation not improve. There is a growing number of senior living providers that have still not received Phase 2 funding from the PRF despite meeting all requirements.

“We are working to make certain that fair distributions are made to assisted living providers from the remaining PRF funds, and that targeted distributions are considered for the industry to cover unreimbursed and future expenses. We are also urging HHS to consider additional disbursements that offer providers the ability to recoup losses from the third quarter of 2020.

“Further, we are equally as disappointed that reasonable liability protections supporting the industry and those caring for residents fell off the negotiating table early. We are hopeful that additional considerations will continue on a federal level, and we will continue our efforts at the state level in the forthcoming 2021 legislative sessions to improve upon the time-limited protections that we helped to enact through executive order or statute.”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


December 16

Statement in response to HHS’ Phase 3 Funding Announcement.

“This is tremendously impactful and welcomed news for the assisted living industry—with this funding and additional Provider Relief funding anticipated from the next relief package, providers all across the industry will rest a little easier today. And we sincerely thank all of those across the industry who’ve advocated for this relief alongside us.

“We appreciate HHS’ commitment to supporting those caring for the most vulnerable during this challenging time. We are extremely pleased to see this Phase 3 funding begin to arrive today for assisted living providers across the industry. The revenue lost and expenses shouldered by these communities have been significant, and this funding will assist in recouping a major portion of those losses so they can continue to care for their residents and support their dedicated workforce.

“Unfortunately, we know there are still outstanding Phase 2 payments that assisted living providers desperately need to continue their operations, and we ask HHS to process those as soon as possible. Without these payments, we know providers across the industry will continue to suffer losses that may lead to closures. As we continue to see COVID-19 cases spike all across the country, it’s essential this funding is distributed now.”

– James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


November 30

Washington, D.C. – The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), LeadingAge, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) released a joint statement today regarding distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine:

“Since the start of the pandemic, heroic caregivers in long-term care and senior living communities have done everything in their power to protect our most vulnerable citizens. In the early months, essential resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and staffing support were directed toward hospitals and other health care sectors, leaving nursing homes, assisted living and senior living communities and other long-term care providers pleading for help.

“Government reports correctly identified all long-term care residents and staff for priority distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. It is critical that policymakers at all levels maintain that position as these products come online and are delivered across the country.

“The lack of prioritization for long-term care and seniors housing at the outset of the pandemic led to devastating losses, and we cannot let that happen again. Vulnerable older adults and the frontline workers who protect them deserve the full support of the public health sector. Ensuring residents and staff in all long-term care and senior living settings are among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will help limit the spread of this deadly virus and prevent further tragedies. We also want to get residents out enjoying social activities and seeing their loved ones again. A vaccine is one critical step toward that goal.

“This is especially important with the new surge of COVID-19 cases nationwide. Independent research from our country’s most prestigious universities shows that a high rate of spread within a community will likely lead to outbreaks in long-term care. We are seeing this unfold now, as cases among the general public and nursing homes hit record numbers. Distributing a vaccine to long-term care and senior living residents and staff first will give us another line of defense against this deadly virus if cases rise within their surrounding communities.”

Media Contacts:
Argentum: jmckay@argentum.org
AHCA/NCAL: AHCAPressOffice@ahca.org
LeadingAge: lsanders@leadingage.org
ASHA: pbergeron@seniorshousing.org


November 1

Statement in response to the press release distributed regarding the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.

“We appreciate the Biden-Harris Transition team’s announcement regarding its COVID-19 response. The specific emphasis on protecting at-risk populations, which includes older adults and those who serve them, as well as a focus on the efficacy of vaccine distribution, is critical to controlling the spread of this virus.

“We are also pleased to see experts on the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board who will focus on addressing the mental health of those serving on the front lines as well as those who understand the essential need for access to infection prevention and control resources, including PPE.

“At Argentum, we continue to be supportive of the development of a national testing strategy that takes into account the needs of residents and caregivers across senior living, including consistent and regular access to effective and rapid tests. This strategy will go a long way in further protecting residents and staff.

“We are committed to working with the current and future administration to ensure senior living communities receive necessary support and resources, including testing and vaccine access and prioritization; access to infection prevention and control resources; and additional financial relief—all without harmful and crippling federal regulation.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


October 1

Statement in response to the HHS announcement that assisted living communities are eligible to apply for a third phase of funding from the Provider Relief Fund.

“We are extremely pleased to see this additional funding made available to the provider communities on the front lines of the pandemic. As HHS noted in its announcement, the fight against this pandemic cannot be won without those providing the care and services needed to abate it. We know assisted living communities in particular continue to face mounting expenses related to COVID-19, and this additional funding will offset some of those rising costs as well as financial losses resulting from necessary operational changes. While this added funding won’t make these communities ‘whole,’ it will offer essential relief the industry needs to continue prioritizing the health and safety of residents and staff.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


September 1

Statement in response to the HHS announcement that assisted living facilities (ALFs) may now apply for funding under the Provider Relief Fund Phase 2 General Distribution allocation

“We are very pleased that HHS has agreed to allocate this relief funding from the CARES Act provider relief fund to the licensed private pay assisted living industry. It will go directly to supporting the communities that are on the frontlines of the pandemic, working tirelessly to protect our nation’s seniors. Argentum, along with our trade association partners, have been advocating on behalf of these communities for months, and we are very grateful for the partnership of HHS, the President and the White House, and the bipartisan support we have received from members of Congress.

“While this source of funding will help assisted living operators that have been experiencing accelerating costs and declining revenue for months due to COVID-19, the fight against this disease is far from over. Senior living communities will continue to bear significant costs related to staffing pressures and procuring scarce resources, such as COVID-19 tests and PPE, to detect and mitigate the spread of the disease. We will continue to advocate for the urgent and critical needs of the senior living industry, including seeking priority access to a vaccine once available for those who live and work in senior living communities. It is essential that these communities have what they need to protect their residents and staff and to secure their financial future.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum

See Argentum letters sent to Congress and the Administration regarding COVID-19

“One of the most overlooked players in the pandemic…”

On May 16, Argentum president & CEO James Balda appeared on Fox News to discuss the critical needs of the senior living industry, including priority PPE, expanded testing, and essential access to federal funding to help tackle COVID-19. Watch video.

July 2

Statement on “COVID-19 in Assisted Living Facilities” Congressional Report

“We thank Sens. Markey and Warren and Rep. Maloney for their efforts to work with key industry operators of assisted living to gain an understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the industry, and we appreciate the findings and recommendations set forth in the Congressional report.

“As a nation, the human toll COVID-19 has taken is tragic. And COVID-19 has presented, and continues to present, unprecedented challenges for older adults. As an industry, we’ll continue to work closely with Congress and the Administration to continue protecting and caring for the most vulnerable Americans who live among our communities as well as the staff who care for them.
The assisted living industry, however, still desperately needs financial assistance in the form of financial relief and added resources for PPE and testing. Assisted living operators have leveraged innovation and partnerships in procuring and securing critical PPE to protect their residents and staff, saving countless lives. But, in accordance with the report, we believe the federal government needs to take a more active role in providing these essential resources.

“Additionally, we continue to believe that openness and transparency are critical to maintaining the valued trust of senior living residents, families, employees, and the public. As such, we will continue to encourage our members to work closely with state oversight agencies and to continue reporting COVID-19 data to them accordingly.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


May 22

Statement in response to the announcement of a $4.9 billion distribution by HHS to nursing facilities impacted by COVID-19

“While Argentum appreciates that the Administration is supporting nursing homes, we remain disappointed that it continues to overlook the senior living industry, which is caring for the same vulnerable population and has equally urgent needs. Senior living communities – assisted living, independent living, memory care, and continuing care – critically need financial relief, as they have rising financial pressures due to added staffing and expanded operations, as well as the costs associated with purchasing PPE and test kits.

“All in all, expenses for senior living communities are projected to be in the tens of billions over the next year. This could cause extreme financial strain on this industry, which currently serves as a safe haven to residents and a backstop to the larger healthcare system. These communities also desperately need priority access to COVID-19 testing and PPE, but the government has prioritized nursing homes for these critical resources, as well.

“We will continue to ask the Administration and Congress not to neglect the urgent needs of the 2 million seniors and 1 million employees who live and work in senior living communities. Lives and livelihoods are at risk, and we are asking our elected officials to stand up for our seniors and those who care for them.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


May 1

On April 30, James Balda was among a small group of long-term care executives invited to the White House for President Trump’s remarks on protecting America’s seniors.

“We are grateful that the Trump administration is shining a light on the urgent needs of our seniors and the heroic work being done every day to protect and care for them. While the actions announced during the press briefing were focused on nursing homes, we feel there is much more that needs to be done for senior living communities, which include assisted living, independent living, memory care and continuing care communities. Like nursing homes, senior living communities have critical needs right now, including expanded testing, PPE and financial relief so that they can continue safeguarding the nearly 2 million seniors who reside in our communities and the nearly 1 million employees who work in them. We are urging the Administration not to overlook senior living communities, which are a critical part of the health care continuum and are acting right now as a critical backstop to hospitals. We will continue working with the Trump administration, including HHS, and state and local governments, to ensure that senior living communities continue to be prioritized for these vital resources.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


April 17

“We continue to see news media conflate skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) with the broader spectrum of senior living communities that support independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Senior living communities, which operate primarily on a private-pay model and receive little, if any, government funding such as Medicare or Medicaid, also have different operating realities and resident profiles than nursing homes. Both models, however, support a vulnerable population of seniors and require priority access to testing and PPE in order to continue to protect both residents and staff.

“While senior living communities have experienced tragic losses in the past weeks, the coronavirus risk profile for those living and working in these communities is far more optimistic. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 3 suggests that senior living communities may be in a better position to contain the spread of the disease because of their ability to have greater social distancing.

“The safety of senior living staff and residents is always our number one priority, and senior living communities are doing everything they can to protect their residents with the resources they have. This might include restricting visitor access, pausing communal dining, adding enhanced infection control measures, and taking the temperatures of employees, among other controls, while also closely following guidance from local and state health officials. Employees also receive initial and ongoing training to maintain their safety and the wellbeing of senior living residents. We will continue taking all necessary steps to keep our residents and staff safe and healthy.” READ MORE.

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


March 22

“This is an incredibly challenging time for the senior living industry and most importantly, for the residents and the team members on the front lines every day. At Argentum, we continue to carefully monitor and share updates from official sources at the federal and state levels that are reporting on the spread of COVID-19. We are working closely with federal agencies and our own state partners as we work to emphasize the need for priority for those who live and work at senior living communities across the country. This includes priority for testing, treatment, supplies, and staffing solutions.

“We also continue to urge Congress to consider ALL senior living communities when drafting forthcoming stimulus legislation. As an industry, we are facing a financial strain that left unaided, will significantly impact the nation’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and undermine the ability to provide long-term care services and supports to the nation’s seniors for years to come. Specifically, we are asking for sufficient financial resources to ensure communities can continue to operate, as well as tax incentives to engage in activities related to COVID-19 prevention and mitigation.

“It remains critical to note that professionally managed senior living providers have significant plans in place for emergency situations, and they follow infection control procedures and protocol every day to mitigate the spread of illness. Communities are taking significant steps to minimize risk to their residents and staff, including restricting visitors and reminding staff and visitors to stay home if they are feeling ill. In coordination with our partners and stakeholders, including guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have offered and continue to update a toolkit that providers and communities may refer to when seeking additional information or support.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum


March 3

“At Argentum, we are closely monitoring updates from official sources at the federal and state levels that are reporting on the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as receiving regular updates from our own state partners and members, and communicating those updates as appropriate.

It is critical to note that professionally managed senior living providers have significant plans in place for emergency situations, and they follow infection control procedures and protocol every day to prevent the spread of illness. We know some companies and communities are already taking additional steps out of an abundance of caution to minimize risk to their residents and staff, including limiting visitors and reminding staff and visitors to stay home if they are feeling ill. In coordination with our partners and stakeholders, including guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have offered and continue to update a toolkit that providers and communities may refer to when seeking additional information or support.

As we meet with policymakers on the coronavirus and other issues in the coming days and weeks, we will continue to emphasize the need for priority for older adults and those at senior living communities regarding access to supplies, medications, or vaccines, when and if those are available.”

—James Balda, President & CEO, Argentum

See Argentum Coronavirus Preparation and Response Toolkit

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